Eastern European Review

Prague Airport has recorded mixed fortunes, but its national airline is in the process of restructuring. (KEY Collection)

Tom Allett presents a round up of recent news and views from Eastern Europe.

Prague Airport has recorded mixed fortunes, but its national airline is in the process of restructuring. (KEY Collection)

Bulgaria:
Sofia
Although passenger figures have not yet fully recovered from the global recession, Sofia’s statistics for July were very positive.  During that month, the latest for which passenger figures are available, the number of passengers handled was 327,100 up 12% compared to July 2009 and 10% above the July 2008 numbers.
The number of passengers taking domestic flight to the country’s seaside resorts went up by nearly 4,400 during the month.
At the height of the summer season, such an increase was registered in both international scheduled and charter flights, and domestic flights, with a rise of 24% against July 2009.  The number of passengers carried by Bulgaria Air between the capital city and the seaside airports went up by nearly 4,400.
In July Sofia Airport’s Terminal 2 handled 230,225 passengers, representing a 10% increase on last year while those for Terminal 1 went up, by 16%.
The airport’s management team says the number of flights is also recovering: “thought at a moderate rate,” – up 5% on 2009 and almost equal with those of 2008.
Cargo operations are also improving.  The mail and cargo handled in July reached 1,293 tonnes, which is a 13% increase year-on-year.  The 25% increase in cargo is attributable to the 14% growth in cargo flights, though the annual figures for cargo and mail carried by scheduled flights is up by almost 6%.
Mr Asen Tanchev (below) is the new Executive Director of Sofia Airport EAD having taken over the post on August 4 for a period of three years.
Mr Tanchev was appointed by the Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications.
Born in Ihtiman on September 13, 1952, Mr Tanchev has a Masters Degree in Marketing and Economic Management.  His aviation career background began in 1974 when he started working as an airfield lighting specialist at Tripoli Airport in Libya.  In 1977 he joined Sofia Airport’s Coordination Centre (CC), rising to shift leader a few years later and remained there until 1996.
From 1996 till 2006 held various managerial positions in private airlines including Inter Trans Air AD (1996-2002), Air Bulgaria EAD (2002-2005) and Heli Air SAU AD (2005-2006), where he was responsible for United Nations operations and World Food Programme missions in Sudan and Kosovo.
In the autumn of 2006 he returned to the management of Sofia Airport’s newly formed Transfer, Coordination and Activity Operational Management Department, whose major functions are associated with the commissioning of Terminal 2 and the coordination of airline operations transfer from Terminal 1 to the new modern facility.
From June to October 2010 he managed the airport’s Coordination and Information Centre.
Mr Tanchev, who also speaks English and Russian, is married with one son.
 
Croatia:
Zagreb
On August 5, 2010, Zagreb Airport moved one step closer to making its new passenger terminal a reality with the government’s decision to initiate a public call for tender.  This enables the selection of a strategic partner that will invest in the new passenger terminal and associated infrastructure.  The airport says the strategic partner will be granted a concession to build and operate the new terminal under conditions to be published on October 15, 2010.  A press statement from the airport’s management team says that it is in consultation with several of the country’s ministerial departments that are involved in producing the Tender documentation.
In order to be eligible to participate the airport states that: “potential partners must be highly experienced in airport construction and internationally recognized in the area of international airport management.“
 
Czech Republic:
Prague
The government of the Czech Republic has approved a wide-ranging restructuring plan for the country’s flag carrier Czech Airlines.  After a failed privatisation programme, Czech Airlines has developed a revised business model to turn the company into what it describes as a: “truly stable commercial entity”.
Under the tentative proposals, the business will transition to a holding company structure over the next three years, with Czech Airlines focussing on its core competency – scheduled air transport.
“Financial prognosis models indicate that the proposed measures, taken as a whole, will lead to the renewal of the company’s stability and its long-term viability,” said Miroslav Dvořák, the Chairman of the Management Board and President of Czech Airlines.  “Unless an unforeseen event should occur, we expect that we will be able to look forward to a profitable Czech Airlines in 2012.”
Under the proposals Czech Airlines will cut many loss-making routes from the winter 2010/2011 schedules and will retire all of its Boeing 737s by the end of 2012.
Prague Airport recorded mixed fortunes in its July figures.  Passenger numbers dropped slightly year-on-year, down by 1.8% to 1,289,152.  The number of aircraft movements for the same period declined by 6.4% to 14,998. Scheduled passenger traffic was almost unchanged, but charter passengers fell by 9.2%.  However, on a positive note, Prague’s cargo traffic leapt up by 48.8%.
Greece was the most popular destination country from Prague, followed by the UK and Germany.
The airport reports that its most significant improvement in passenger numbers was experienced on Russian flights – up 29.1%, while the most popular destination cities were Paris (Charles de Gaulle), Moscow (Sheremetyevo) and London (Heathrow).
 
Hungary:
Budapest Ferihegy
Budapest Ferihegy Airport gained a new Chairman of its Supervisory Board Michael when Michael Tönnesmann was appointed in April after the former Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Dr Peter Noé, also the Chairman of the Executive Board of HOCHTIEF Concessions AG, left the post.
Born in 1956, Mr Tönnesmann has been a member of the Executive Board of HOCHTIEF Concessions AG as well as CFO since November 2009.  He graduated from the University of Cologne in economics in 1982 and then worked at the Daimler Group in Germany and abroad, in various positions.  He held management positions in the fields of finance and business administration and as well as group-level strategic business planning and controlling projects.
From 1995 to 2002 he worked as Member of the Management Board and CFO of a production entity located in Ludwigsfelde in eastern Germany, and thereafter until 2007 he was a member of the management board and CFO at a large manufacturing and sales company in Turkey.  At the same time he was elected vice-president and treasurer of the German-Turkish Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Mr Tönnesmann became CFO of HOCHTIEF PPP Solutions GmbH in August 2007 and also a member of the Management Board of HOCHTIEF Concessions GmbH in 2008.
Another significant event this year was the 15-year extension of the maintenance contract between the airport and Lufthansa Technik Budapest (LTB) on September 9.  The contract was signed by Jost Lammers, CEO of Budapest Airport; René Droese, Property Director of Budapest Airport; Elmar Lutter, CEO of Lufthansa Technik Budapest, and Sándor Szomora, Deputy CEO of Lufthansa Technik Budapest.  LTB’s expected turnover in the next 15 years is HUF 140 billion (US$646m), supporting 350 jobs.
Lufthansa Technik Budapest specialises in overhauling and maintenance of narrow-body aircraft (D-check) and it commenced its operation at Ferihegy Airport with 240 employees in March 2002.  Up to September 2010, LTB completed refurbishments worth HUF 6 billion (US$27.7m) on the property leased from Budapest Airport, as a result of which their base in Ferihegy is now capable of performing maintenance of four narrow-body aircraft at the same time in two heated hangars with a combined floor-space of  66,736 sq ft (6,200m2).
In addition, LTB has leased sq ft 136,700 (12,700m2) of concreted apron area and 29,062 sq ft (2,700m2) of workshop and office space from Budapest Airport.  The operation of the maintenance base represents significant added value for the airport operator, as it offers world-class technical services to numerous airlines including minor repairs, troubleshooting in the event of unexpected technical failures, and planned overhauls.
 
Latvia:
Riga
Although Riga’s airport has undergone rapid development over the last two or three years (it is capable of handling two and a half million passengers annually) it is now bursting at the seams as it struggles to cope with airBaltic’s rapid expansion.  In the first six months of 2010 passenger numbers increased by 22% and if this rate of increase continues the current terminal will soon be overcrowded.  However, help could be just around the corner, the Latvian Government announced in February 2010 that a second terminal will be built at Riga International for airBaltic’s own use, as it had 66% of the market.
During the North Hub Riga Conference on June 9 it was announced that airBaltic had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TAV Airports of Turkey to develop the new terminal as a joint venture.  Approval has also been gained from the airport operators regarding the lease on the land where the terminal will be built.  The new €100 million (US$182m) terminal is planned to be finished in 2012 and will have a capacity of up to 14 million passengers per year and will be equipped with 18 gates, four of which will be able to handle wide-body aircraft.     (Barry Woods-Turner)
 
Poland:
Warsaw
Warsaw Chopin Airport is proceeding with its long-term Airport City project that involves the transforming areas around its access roads into a business and commercial park with recreation and entertainment facilities.
The airport says the project will benefit both its passengers and the residents of Warsaw. On April 7 a competition jury comprising representatives from the airport, State Enterprise and the Warsaw Branch of the Polish Architects Association selected the winning urban planning design for the Chopin Airport City submitted by the architectural studio JEMS Architekci Sp.
The airport says the winning design includes the creation of Fryderyk Chopin Park, which, being easily visible from the road leading to the Airport: “will be a characteristic feature of the complex and the major element establishing a new relationship between Chopin Airport City and the capital.”  A tree-lined avenue will lead to the focal point of the park – a public square with service functions.  The park will mainly serve recreational purposes and will also be open to the local public.  As planned by the architects, the park area will be designed to form a meadow with groups of trees, a pond and a landscaped escarpment with accompanying facilities, such as catering establishments, fitness clubs and galleries.
Chopin Airport City will also include a conference and exhibition centre, commercial and office space and sports and recreation facilities.  As part of the project, there are plans to develop the area of about 10 hectares and provide over 161,460 sq ft (150,000m2) of usable space.  The next phase of the project’s implementation will involve preparing a municipal land development plan based on the winning design.  Once approved by the municipal authorities, all investment projects and tenders aimed at the development of the area surrounding the Airport will be implemented according to the guidelines presented in the planning document.
A terminal extension project is already underway at Chopin Airport.  The scope of work includes the completion of its south pier and the construction of a central pier that will integrate the north and the south piers with the existing Terminal. The project is due to be completed by March 2011.
When the work is finished the terminal will give access to 27 passenger boarding bridges and 45 gates.
As this edition went to press the airport was about to begin a period of runway refurbishment work that means it will be operating with a runway length reduced to 4,265 ft (1,300m).
Airport Director Michał Marzec said: “We looked for alternative solutions to offer to our passengers and business partners during the reconstruction of the runway intersection.  The implementation of this project is not an easy task, since it requires extensive organizational and technical changes.  Also, the analysis of aircraft movement safety, which was a subject of long consultations with aviation experts, was important. I am glad that we have finally been able to work out an alternative solution and the airport will not have to be completely closed [during the work].”  The idea of opening a shortened runway section for aircraft movements was first presented at the meeting with airlines and tour operators on February 11 and was quickly accepted by the Polish flag-carrier LOT.  The work is due to be finished by October.
Inside the airport, a new retail area has been opened within the non-Schengen area of the Terminal.
The airport also opened a new bus terminal on Monday May 31.  It is located in front of the south pier and has 21 parking stands for long-distance buses plus maintenance facilities and a covered waiting area, with all bays numbered for the convenience of passengers.
 
Krakow
The Małopolska Province Governor has presented the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency with two plots of land for development.
The first of the plots will house a new air traffic control centre, which will be built near to the existing premises used by the airport’s emergency services.  New DVOR/DME radio navigation beacons will be built on the second plot.  The estimate cost of both investments is estimated to be almost 20 million PLN (US$6.6m).
The lease agreement was signed with the participation of Province Governor, Stanisław Kracik; President of the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency, Krzysztof Banaszek; President of the Army Estate Agency, Krzysztof Michalski; District Governor, Józef Krzyworzeka, and Jan Pamuła, President of John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport Ltd.
 
Romania:
Bucharest
Against a background of the economic downturn and the effects of the European ash cloud, the Bucharest Airports National Company (BANC) recorded a positive first six months of the current year.
At Bucharest / Henri Coanda (BHC) and Bucharest / Baneasa – Aurel Vlaicu (BAV) International Airports, a total of 3,183,625 passengers and 47,604 commercial aircraft movements were recorded between January and June 2010.
Passenger traffic at BHC rose by 10 % compared to the same period of last year, reaching a total of 2,217,357 passengers, while similarly commercial airport movements went up by approximately 2.5% reaching 34,518 landings and take-offs on its two runways.  In the first half of 2010, 65% of the total number of passengers who boarded at BHC travelled to Schengen destinations.
BAV also reported good news with 966,268 passengers for the same period (up 3%) while the number of commercial aircraft movements stayed approximately the same at just over 13,086 up to the end of June.
BANC was set up on February 11 this year following the merger of the two separate companies that previously managed the capital’s two airports.  It expects to record traffic levels of approximately 4.6 million passengers at Henri Coanda Airport and 2.1 million at Baneasa Aurel Vlaicu Airport by the end of 2010.
 
Russia:
Gelendzhik
Oleg Deripaska’s Basel Aero Company has opened Gelendzhik Airport, the first new civilian airport to be built in Russia for 25 years.  The facility is able to accept first flights from major Russian cities thanks to the success of the private public partnership that made the project possible.  Gelendzhik, one of Basel Aero’s cluster of airports located in Russia’s Krasnodar territory, is adjacent to the old one, which was closed in 2004.
The new airport is of strategic importance to Gelendzhik as one of Russia’s major Black Sea resorts.  Experts forecast the resumption of flights will boost annual tourism to the coastal area by 20%.  The opening ceremony, held on June 5, was attended by Deputy Russian Transport Minister Valery Okulov, Deputy Governor of the Krasnodar Territory Dzhambulat Khatuov, General Director of the Basel Aero Group of Airports Sergei Likharev, and representatives of the Civilian Airports Administration, Federal Civil Aviation Agency and other government agencies and airport partners.
The facility has already accepted flights by leading airlines like Aeroflot, Rossiya, Urals Airlines, UTair, Gazpromavia, Avianova and Atlant-Soyuz.  It is currently interconnected with Moscow, St Petersburg and Novosibirsk and efforts are under way to secure new key routes to cities like Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Tyumen and Ekaterinburg.  Basel Aero plans to bring new carriers in, to expand the route network and introduce additional services for the airport’s passengers and partners.
The runway is 10,171ft (3,100m) long and the terminal is capable of handling 140 passengers per hour.
 
Moscow
Moscow’s three main international airports have all reported significant gains in passenger numbers during the first quarter of 2010, buoyed by a growth in international traffic and a rebound in domestic demand.
At Domodedovo International, the largest gateway into the Russian capital, 4.2 million passengers were handled during the first three months of 2010, a 37.9% increase over the same period last year.  The growth was well balanced between domestic and international numbers with a 37.9% rise to 1.6 million and a 34.5% increase to 2.5 million being recorded respectively.
At Sheremetyevo International, the main base for national carrier Aeroflot Russian Airlines, a 28.5% growth to 3.5 million was recorded during the first three months with international numbers up 25.1% to 2.3 million and domestic demand up 35.7% to 1.2 million.  Meanwhile, the third largest facility, Vnukovo International, handed 1.8 million passengers during the period, a 35.8% rise on the first quarter of 2009.  It recorded 490,000 international passengers (an 8.7% increase) and 1.4 million on domestic services, a 46.4% rise on last year.
It formally opened the first phase of its new domestic terminal on July 27 three weeks after the first flights began departing from the building.  Built at a cost of around Rb 40 billion ($1.3 billion), the 1,872,980sq ft (174,000m2 ) facility has the capacity to handle up to 2,800 passengers per hour.
 
St Petersburg
Northern Capital Gateway – a consortium consisting of Fraport AG, Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide, VTB Bank Europe plc and Copelouzos Group – has won a 30-year contract tendered by the city of St Petersburg for the concession, modernisation and running of the city’s Pulkovo Airport. The project, valued at around €1 billion, is one of the largest PPP projects in Russia and one of the most ambitious aviation projects currently underway in Europe.  It will see the creation of a new terminal building and pier, new landside facilities including a hotel, business centre and office developments, as well as extensive refurbishment to the existing infrastructure.
 
Slovenia:
Ljubljana
Aerodrom Ljubljana plc, the management company of Jože Pučnik Ljubljana Airport, concluded a four year €23 million (US$30m) investment cycle in April when runway, taxiway, apron and ramp refurbishment tasks were completed.
The airport was closed for two weeks between April 7-21 while work took place along the final 3,280ft (1,000m) segment of the 9,842ft x 197ft (3,000 x 60m) strip.
The renovation works involved the replacement of asphalt surfaces on the runway, part of taxiways and included construction works for the replacement of the airfield lighting system and the laying of additional cable shafts.  The runway surface was originally laid in 1978 and previously renovated with what the airport describes as a: “thin coating” in 1992.
The first and second parts of the task, measuring approximately 3,280ft in length, on either end of the runway, were renovated last year.  They were completed without any major impact on air traffic flows as the airport was able to operate using shortened take-off and landing distances, though its ILS had to be switched off for a period during those stages.
During the final stage of the work the contractors estimated they removed 20,300 tons of old asphalt layers from the runway and repaired lower asphalt layers covering approximately 34,440 sq ft  (3,200m2) of damaged areas and around 32,800 ft (10,000m) of cracks.  Around 20,200 tons of mixture was used on the runway transported by a fleet of over 800 trucks.  By the end of the third phase 212 lights, 46 cable shafts and 26 miles (42.6km) of cables were built into the runway.
Overall, 48,371 tons of asphalt layers were removed from the runway, and replaced with an equivalent amount, while 125 runway edge lights and 472 runway centreline lights were removed and refitted.  In addition, 396,976 ft (121,000m) of primary and 311,676ft (95,000m) of secondary cables were installed in the runway.
Commenting on the process, airport CEO Mr Zmago Skobir, said: “All the project phases presented an enormous organisational task.  The general contractor excelled itself.  In spite of rainy weather at the time, the company carried out the plan maintaining the necessary quality while sticking to the deadline”.
The €10 million (US$13m) cost of the runway refurbishment was paid for from the airport’s own funds.
While this work was taking place the airport took the opportunity to modernise some of its other airport systems, including that of its security operations centre, which monitors video security.
Approximately 2,712 sq ft (252m2) of the airport’s former Police headquarters of the airport police were refurbished and adapted to meet the needs of a modern new centre at a cost of approximately €435,000 (US$566,000)